The barons favoured the English-speaking mendicant friars over the Gaelic-speaking local clergy, particularly with the education of their sons in mind, for the friars taught in English and had connections with the first universities that were then growing in England.
The first Augustinian site in Dublin was donated by one such family, the Talbot family. The year 1259 is the date when approval was given for a foundation of the Order of Saint Augustine in Dublin, but there is no historical evidence of their actual presence earlier than a reference to them in a last will and testament signed in 1282.
There is no doubt, therefore, that the Augustinians arrived at some time between 1259 and 1282; to narrow the time frame any further is moving into the realm of conjecture.
It is known that in 1282 William de Stafford before his departure for the Holy Land left legacies to various churches in Dublin, including ten shillings to the Order of St Augustine and two shillings to the Sack Friars
. The Staffords were great friends of the Augustinians, and founded or rebuilt the houses of the Austin Friars at Atherstone, Stafford and Shrewsbury (all in England) and Newport (Wales). On 5th June 1284 the Augustinians received permission from King Edward I to buy up to one acre of land adjoining their current property in Dublin.
The Talbot family, ancestors of the dukes of Tyroconnell, gave the Augustinians four acres (under three hectares) of land beside the Poddle, a tributary of the River Liffey.
Some of the property was land reclaimed from the river, and was subject to flooding.
It was open country outside the city walls, just east of Dublin – then probably a city of 8,000 inhabitants.
The Augustinian priory (convento) was situated on the southern bank of the Liffey, on a site that in recent years was occupied by Cecilia Street and the northern part of Crowe street.
Dublin had ten religious houses (including those of the Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites
and Sack Friars
before the arrival of the Augustinians), and many parish churches.
No specific details of the Augustinian priory (convento) exist, but it is presumed it adopted the pattern of an English Augustinian monastery, with separate buildings around a cloister (courtyard).
It has been suggested that the priory was dedicated to the Holy Trinity.
After some difficulty with the mayor, the Augustinians succeeded in June 1284 to purchase an adjoining acre of land.
This may have been with accommodation in mind for candidates to the Order, although no direct historical reference to a house of Augustinian students in Dublin appears before 1359.
Indeed, on two occasions in 1348 the Augustinians at Dublin petitioned the king in England for financial assistance to send six of their candidates to study liberal arts and theology in England because they had no way of undertaking such studies in Ireland.
Although the Augustinian communities in Ireland were part of the English Augustinian Province
, at some stage the practice began of having a Vicar Provincial for Ireland, so that less important matters no longer had to be referred to England.
The first record of a Vicar Provincial is in the year 1360, although it is not known if this particular Augustinian, John Dale, was the first to hold this position.
(For a map of their locations, plus of other Pre-Reformation Augustinian priories in Ireland, click here
(Continued on the next page.)
Augustinian Church, St John's Lane (actually fronting Thomas Street), Dublin.